Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Well, autumn did not start for us as poetically as John Keats wrote in To Autumn! 

We had to contend with Storm Ali which battered the UK in September.  Whilst there was little major damage, for which we are very grateful, our wonderful old apple tree was no match for those strong winds. We knew it was only a matter of time but it was still sad to see it so battered.  

As gardeners know it is just such events which have to be looked on as a new opportunity.  A time to replace that tree with something just as lovely, one with beautiful blossom or dramatic leaf colour through the changing seasons.  We have so many ideas it is hard to narrow them down.  

Gardening is very much about looking forward.  So what if those seeds you sowed didn't germinate, start again!  So what if that shrub you planted last season didn't survive the first frost, move on, learn by your mistakes and try again.  Gardening and growing cut flowers as a business is a huge learning curve and I am still learning every day.  

In 2017 for example I purchased, at great expense, about 100 anemones.  I nurtured them, spent far too much time looking at them to persuade them to grow and they did, all 5 of them!  The reason, I watered them too much and the corms rotted.  It is of course infuriating but a lesson nonetheless.  So I now have them all nestled happily in vermiculite waiting for them to put on some growth before planting into their final position.  Here is a photo of them looking rather ugly and slightly scary with their tentacle like roots.  They are just starting to green up which is very exciting.  I shall be pampering them again but not so much this time around and hopefully in a few months I will have the most gorgeous early spring blooms.

The ranunculus are potted up and chitting well.  Last year I didn't follow this simple step and just planted them straight into the polytunnel and the mice had a field day.  I'm hoping that if I let them put on some growth they will be less delectable for the rodent population and save my back planting corms that are never going to germinate.

My tulip bulbs have arrived.  The last conversation I had with myself was to reduce the order from previous years.  Great intentions and all that!  I now have 500 bulbs waiting to go in, the same as last year and the year before that!  They are very easy to plant, dig trench, plant bulbs close together, cover up, wait until April/May and enjoy.  These are not like the tulips in supermarkets, small heads, short stems and only available in red, dirty pink and yellow.  These are very long stemmed, some are scented and all have large heads in a range of stunning colours.  

Seed sowing of hardy annuals to be planted out in the polytunnel for early spring flowers has started.  The biennials are planted out and the first sowing of sweet peas are in their root trainers and have already started to peek through.  Once they have germinated they will go outside under cover until its time for them to be planted out.  They are are very hardy and don't like to be too warm.These will go undercover in the spring and will hopefully flower towards the middle/end of May.  I can't wait!

As know at this time of year there is so much tidying up to get on with, collecting leaves, clearing beds and preparing for sowing again in the spring.  It's non stop but its good to make time to look back at previous seasons and remember what grew well and what didn't and its a good chance to have a rethink.  

The 2018 growing season as been short.  It didn't get off to a good start with polytunnel grown tulips not starting to flower until the end of March/mid April and the garden closing at the beginning of October as the dahlias were frosted and the rest of the flowers going over so quickly.  However, I will keep on sowing, planting, clearing and enjoying the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" and I hope you do too.

Friday, 20 July 2018

"I must have flowers, always, and always"

Since my last blog we have had the Beast from the East swiftly followed by the warmest of summers. There is some rain today, a soft gentle rain, probably not enough for the garden but better than nothing.  It was a long 5 weeks without rain here which is very unusual and resulted in lots of journeys up and down the garden with watering cans.
“I must have flowers, always, and always."  This is a much used quote by Claude Monet and it is very apt for a flower grower.

I now have the flowers, lots of them, which is just as well as there has been a run of parties and weddings all needing beautiful British grown flowers.

When I first started growing flowers I thought that would be it, simply growing and selling to florists.  I had no idea that wedding floristry would become such a large part of my world.  I have no formal floristry training, I'm self taught and a student of workshops and online training.  

My first wedding was very nerve racking and I was delighted to hear from the bride after the wedding who had taken the time to write a lovely note thanking me for her flowers. Since then there have been lots of brides and thankfully, lots of lovely notes and kind words!  It is still a nervous time for me, making sure I have understood the wishes of the Bride and Groom, ensuring all the flowers are looking at their very best on the day and putting together the flowers for their special day.  

It seems strange to be tending to small seedlings when the garden is flowering its socks off but that is what is happening at the moment.  The biennials for next year have been sown and will be planted out in September when I can find some space in the polytunnel and cutting garden.  Foxgloves, honesty, wallflowers, sweet william, sweet rocket and campanula are all sitting patiently waiting.  Hopefully there will be early flowers in the spring of 2019.

So whilst the rain is falling and I am inside, its high time I chased my children out of bed, in time for lunch!

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the photographs of bouquets, large arrangements, buttonholes and jam jars.

If you like what you see and are planning your wedding, please do get in touch, I love talking flowers.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Spring is not really springing

Well wrapped up against the cold
The start of 2018 has been cold, wet and snowy.  The garden has been covered under a thick blanket of snow for so long and finally it disappeared and now as I sit by the fire keeping warm it is snowing again!  

My first wedding of the year is this weekend.  The bride to be and her mother came to the house at this time last year to have a wander around the garden to choose the flowers for the wedding.  There was lots flowering.  Tulips, daffodils, hellebores, snowflakes and fritillaria.  This year there is nothing!  Luckily I can still source flowers from the UK from wholesalers in the south west of England so we will be ok which is a huge relief.

The seed sowing has continued and at last they seem to be growing.  This weekend was spent planting out the first batch of sweet peas in the polytunnel.  These were sown in January as the October sown seeds were killed off by the cold.  

Roots looking healthy

They look a bit lost but will soon start to climb 
Generally I sow sweet peas in root trainers, they love to stretch their legs

A new addition in the polytunnel is a rose bed.  They have been transplanted from the garden and hopefully it will mean bigger and better blooms in the summer.  Getting battered by wind and rain and a lack of sunshine took its toll last year and the blooms I had were very inferior so fingers crossed.

So whilst there is a very slow start to spring I am heartened that finally the annuals already planted out in the polytunnel will soon start flowering and we will have flowers like these ones.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Autumn and Winter at Schoolhouse Flowers


Whilst the garden has gone into hibernation the work still goes on clearing beds of the spent flowers and putting them through the shredder to make wonderful compost for the coming year.

The pile of tulip bulbs stored in the garage were planted in November and I eagerly await seeing the first little tips appearing above ground in February.  They are planted in rows, very close together, think eggs in an egg box.

Tulip bulbs planted in polytunnel 

The ranunculus and anemones are planted in beds in the polytunnel and hopefully the mice will leave me a good few to sell in the spring.


Early December was all about wreath making.  Foraging for greenery, wiring all the decorations for the wreaths and table centres, spray painting poppy seed heads and alliums collected and dried earlier in the year, sorting through the dried helichrysums to find the best ones and collecting the moss for the wreath bases.  The thought is rather daunting but once the radio is on and the first one starts to take shape it doesn't take too long.  The only down side is the cuts on my hands from the wire and holly and the colour of my hands at the end of the day.

Wreath making starts

The first few are ready 

A special order for two identical wreaths, first one ready

First time using lotus seed heads, I will definitely be using them again
Our table centre, I remembered to make one for us too!

Today is the 5th of January 2018 and I am going to sow another batch of sweet peas.  The first batch, sown in October 2017, are looking rather bedraggled after the temperature dropped to between -6°C - 9°C for a few days but I'm sure they will bounce back.  Even though they look so delicate when flowering they are extremely hardy and like cooler temperatures to get going so fingers crossed.

The outside beds were covered with a thick layer of snow and so nothing was to be done apart from admire them on our way past to the hill for some tobogganing fun!
The cutting garden hiding under the snow

Cutting beds in paddock covered in snow

Now the snow has gone but the rain has arrived making everything very wet, muddy and sticky.  Far too cold to be doing much outside apart from more tidying and preparation but inside the polytunnel will start to fill up once again with the biennials and autumn sown hardy annuals. 

I'm off to the greenhouse now to have a tidy up and get some seeds sown.